The community’s friend, come what May: 10 highlights from her time in office
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The community’s friend, come what May: 10 highlights from her time in office

Theresa May is one of the Jewish community's staunchest allies in Parliament. Here we look at the highs and odd low...

1. Sir Nicholas Winton
On the steps of Downing Street, May recalled a conversation with ex- constituent, Sir Nicholas Winton, who saved 669 mainly Jewish children from the Nazis. In 2016, following Jewish News’ successful campaign for Royal Mail to produce a stamp for Winton, the then Home Secretary helped launch the stamp at Maidenhead Station.

Theresa May at Maidenhead station, launching the stamp for Shoah rescue hero Sir Nicholas Winton.

2. Dinner with the Chief Rabbi
On the eve of becoming PM, Theresa May and husband Philip attended the home of Chief Rabbi Ephraim Mirvis for dinner. Mirvis described her  as “a friend and champion of our community and of other faiths”, and said her decision to honour the engagement was an indication of the esteem in which she held by the community.

3. Response to Labour antisemitism
Theresa May used her most recent party conference speech to call out Jeremy Corbyn’s handling of the antisemitism row, saying “what has it come to when Jewish families today seriously discuss where they should go if Jeremy Corbyn becomes prime minister?” She cited his appearances on Iranian Press TV and claims the party was “institutionally racist”.

4. Hezbollah
As home secretary, May suggested that waving Hezbollah flag could breach the Terrorism Act of  2000, but didn’t ban the group in full. In subsequent years, demonstrators put labels on  flags outlining it was to signify support for the legal political wing, not the banned military wing. Incumbent Home Secretary Sajid Javid more recently fully banned Hezbollah

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5. Je Suis Juif
Following the deadly Paris terror attacks in 2015, May joined the community in showing solidarity, during a Board of Deputies plenary. She promised the government would redouble efforts fighting antisemitism, and aid she “never thought she’d see the day” when Jews would be “fearful” of staying in the UK.

6. Community ties
Theresa May has attended many communal events, including an interfaith Mitzvah Day cooking session at JW3, speaking at Conservative Friends of Israel, attending Anne Frank Trust events, and an historic speech at UJIA’s annual fundraising dinner last September. She also continued roundtable discussions with the community to discuss the fight against antisemitism.

Prime Minister Theresa May speaks at the United Jewish Israel Appeal charity dinner in London. Photo credit: Peter Nicholls/PA Wire

7. Relationship with Netanyahu on settlements, embassy and Iran
Her relationship with Israel has been challenging, despite showing her consistent support, even when meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu in Downing Street. She criticised settlement building, the USA for moving its Embassy to Jerusalem, and Donald Trump’s decision to scrap the Iran deal, causing tension. The resignation of Priti Patel after it was revealed she took part in unsanctioned meetings with Israeli ministers was a low point.

Prime Minister Theresa May with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a meeting in 10 Downing St, London.
Photo credit: Joe Giddens/PA Wire

8. Balfour Declaration and Israel’s 70th
Theresa May congratulated the community ahead of the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, calling the document “one of the most important letters in history”, while she called Israel “an old friend” in an article marking the Jewish state’s 70th birthday in 2018.

Bibi Netanyahu being shown a copy of the Balfour Declaration by Theresa May

9. Defending the community
In 2017, May pledged ‘total commitment’ on security during a JLC-led meeting, after having led the government to adopt the full International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism in 2016. As Home Secretary, she announced £13m fund for communal security.

JLC delegation meeting with the Prime Minister in September 2017

10. United nations.  

In March of this year, the UK called out the UN’s anti-Israel bias, saying: “Unless things change, we will adopt a policy of voting against all resolutions concerning Israel’s conduct.”

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